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Drama Teens & Young Adult Contemporary

The rain grows heavier on the Starbucks window, beating a wild rhythm against the glass. Oh, great, I think. Now I’m going to have to walk to the car in that. Maybe it was a mistake to try to finish the last few minutes of my English assignment once it started raining. It doesn’t matter. I’m done now.

My fingertip drags my laptop cursor across the screen, toward its bottom corner, and almost to the power button. But before the little arrow can click, an email notification pings on the side of the screen. My heart stops when I see the pop-up.

Jansen University, it says. Right there, in thin black letters. Looking the same as the notifications I get to verify my email or redeem my Tim Horton’s points. And yet, so much bigger.

Do I check now? Do I wait? Well, I can’t wait. Now that I know it’s there I might as well stumble all the way home. So then I can’t wait. This is it.

I suck in a deep breath, focusing on bringing the blood back into my cheeks before I read the email. I look around the cafe, but the few people who spend their afternoon here don’t seem to be paying attention. Good.

And just like that, I click the icon. Such a simple action for such an important moment. I know that it’s not an exaggeration to say that so much of my life has led to now. Months of hard work and a decade of dreams. My beanie suddenly feels very heavy and very warm, my palms damp. Pulse racing in my chest and butterflies fluttering in my stomach, I scan the words.

-

“Nathan! Nathan, get up! We got an email from Jansen!”

I simply groan and roll over. This is why they made alarm clocks delicate. Unfortunately, I can’t throw my father at the wall.

“Come on. Get up. We’re not taking no for an answer,” he says, a little bit of sternness cutting through his words this time.

I groan again but oblige. When Dad says he won’t go away, he means it. I nearly roll off the bed and move to stand, following my father out of my room and into the next. I run my fingers through my hair as I go. It’s a mess. What a crime. 

My mom sits on the couch with an email open in front of her. “We just got an email from Jansen, sweetie. You were accepted!”

Now, most kids would be excited about hearing they got into such a good university. Some might even squeal, or jump up and down. Many would at least feel a twinge of excitement, of pride. Not me.

“Of course I did, Mom,” I reply, yawning.

“I like the confidence,” she exclaims, mistaking my nonchalance. She walks around the sofa and pulls me into a hug, a look of pride on her face. I hate it.

“No, I mean, of course, I did, cause you cheated me in,” I chuckle humourlessly. The honour on their faces sickens me. How can they be so proud of me for something they know I didn’t do?

“Oh no, honey, you deserve this,” Mom says, holding my shoulders.

“No, I don’t,” I snap back.

“Nathan, don’t talk to your mother like that,” commands my father.

“Whatever.”

-

Dear Miss Cassidy. The words echo in my head, pulling my heart into the ground. We are sorry to inform you that your application has been declined. It must be a mistake. It’s gotta be. There’s no way this is happening.

I feel embarrassed. I feel sad. Angry at myself and shocked and disappointed. 

Embarrassed because I got my hopes up so high. I believed in myself, in this, so wholly, like a child. I never grew up.

Sad because my dream has disappeared like smoke in the wind.

Angry because I shouldn’t feel like this. I should have known this would happen.

How could I let this happen? How could everything I’ve been working towards go to waste? How… how could I not be good enough?

Self-pity and self-hate swirl around in my head and I ache with the weight of it all. What now? What do you do when the only thing you’ve ever really wanted to accomplish gets taken away?

I slam my computer shut, unable to look at those horrible words any longer. Those horrible, horrible words. I set my elbows on the table and press the heels of my hands into my eyes, trying to push the tears back in. Instead, I make a sniffling, sobbing noise.

“Miss?”

I startle, turning to see a sandy-haired barista standing behind me, looking awkward. I snap back into reality, where there are people around me. People to stare and judge. “Are you alright?” he asks.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” I mumble, voice cracking. I aggressively try to compose myself, wiping the tears from my cheeks with my cardigan sleeve. I have to get out of here.

I carelessly shove my papers into my bag, but he doesn’t get the hint. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’m fine… Eric,” I say, reading his name tag in an attempt to be more polite. With difficulty, I paste a superficial smile on my face as I leave.

-

I can’t sleep. My mind keeps drifting back to Jansen. I feel guilty, loathe as I am to admit it. I don’t deserve this. I don’t deserve to go to any quality university. I’ve slacked off for years. I can’t remember the last time I got my homework done. I barely pass my courses. And yet, Mom and Dad are proud of this. I hate that.

Stop it,  I tell myself. Stop thinking about it. There’s nothing you can do. I’m just going to have to suck it up and forget about it. There’s no point in feeling bad about it. I’m going to university. That’s a good thing, right?

The more I mull it over, the more I want to sleep, and the more I can’t sleep. After a while, I decide that I’m not going to get anywhere by suppressing it, so I sit up in bed and stare at my wall.

I took someone’s place. I took someone’s place at Jansen who deserved it. I cheated. Someone else actually wants to go there and now they don’t get to because I am instead. Because my family knows the dean, because we’ve got money. It’s not fair.

-

The car door slams shut and I sink into the cold leather seat. The second wave of depression hits me, this time featuring nausea and gasps for breath. I cry, and I cry, and I cry. I cry until I can’t cry anymore and then I stare out the front window, watching the raindrops spatter the windshield.

It takes almost an hour before I’m composed enough to call my dad. He’s probably wondering where I am.

“Hey, dad,” I say, trying to make my voice sound as normal as possible.

“Hi, honey. How’s it going?”

“It’s okay. Um…” I trail off, dreading having to tell him. I don’t want him to be disappointed, not that he would be. I’m afraid that saying it aloud will pull me apart again.

“What is it?”

“I got an email from Jansen just now,” I force out. 

A long pause. “Well?”

“I didn’t make it,” I mutter, fighting vigorously to keep my voice from cracking and the tears from leaking.

“Oh. Well, that’s alright, sweetie. I’m sure you’ll get into other places.” I don’t want to go to other places, I feel like saying. In his voice, I note only a hint of disappointment and mostly pity.

“Yeah,” I reply simply. We both live in the moment for a while, simultaneously absorbing the truth of what’s just happened. 

Eventually, I shake my head to try to break out of the stupor. “I’ll be home soon. Bye, Dad.”

“Bye, honey. I love you.”

“Love you too,” I whisper, and hang up.

As I watch myself in the car mirror, I see a small girl. A lost little girl, beaten down, her place in the world taken. A look of loss in her eyes for something she never had and her hope gone. Probably taken by some cheating rich kid. By a little bit of money, slipped under a table, or maybe the camaraderie of old friends. That spot is... was... supposed to be mine.

-

When the idea first comes to mind, it’s half a joke. There’s no way I could give up my spot. Sure, I don’t deserve it, but going to a good university is a gift. It would be foolish, not to mention my parents would kill me. But they can’t stop me. I’m eighteen now. I’m an adult. It’s not up to anyone but me…

No. No, no, no, no, no. It would be stupid, so stupid.

But there’s someone out there right now, someone who deserves to go to Jansen. Who worked hard for it and just got let down. Someone who didn’t cheat. It’s not hard for me to acknowledge that I took their spot. The difficult part is realizing that I owe it to them. That no matter how hard I work to earn my place, to deserve this, I will always owe it to them, and I will never be able to forget that.

My fingers are tapping the keys before I know I’ve made the decision. I may not be very good at making them, but I’m sure about this one. The ironic thing is that maybe giving up my spot is the only way I could ever earn it. It doesn’t matter.

I know that if I hesitate I might change my mind, so I don’t. I don’t even read what I’m writing. I just click away, and then I hit send.


October 09, 2020 21:16

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2 comments

Aidan Mahanga
17:00 Oct 16, 2020

Great work and creative, I like it. Very enjoyable story

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Susannah Webster
01:54 Oct 17, 2020

Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. -SW

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